CLONES Audio 25p Power Amplifier Review 
Home Theater Power Amplifiers Stereo Amplifiers
Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Having travelled to Hong Kong several years ago, I was surprised to see a large number of high-end audio shops filled with hifi aficionados. Mainland China has been an audiophile hub for decades now, with hundreds of homegrown brands and of course factories set up by many well-known Western brands. Recently, China has been exporting excellent gear designed and built there, not as hired hands. Brands such as AURALiC and Line Magnetic, just to name a few, have been causing quite a stir.

I heard about CLONES Audio, based in Hong Kong, from an industry veteran with very discerning taste. He had a CLONES Audio 25i integrated amplifier he wanted me to hear and, when I did, I was very impressed, and wrote about it for another publication. I subsequently wrote about the CLONES SHEVA DSD DAC and, again, was mighty tickled.

 A fellow named Funjoe runs CLONES Audio. The basis of his amplification products are the Gainclone designs made popular by Japanese firm, 47 Labs. Gainclone designs are known for simplicity, short signal path, and the need for fewer components than other circuit types. This also allows Gainclone amplifiers to be housed in a smaller case. They are extremely popular with the DIY community as well.

I received in for review the 25p power amplifier. Actually the 25p and 25i are very similar, but the integrated version has a passive input with volume attenuation and source selection. The 25p sells for $740, and is represented in the US by Northto35, who are diligently establishing a dealer network.

The 25p is housed in rugged, beautiful black casework. The workmanship is astonishing at this price point. This is not a mass produced product off an assembly line. The speaker binding posts and RCA inputs are of superb quality. There are three sturdy spiked feet attached to the bottom. The amplifier is the size of large square tissue box, and weighs less than 9 Lbs. The 25p, as its name suggests, outputs 25 watts per channel into 8 ohms.

 

Set Up & Listening

I used the 25p to drive both my Thiel CS2.4 floorstanders -- rated at 4 Ohms, 87 db efficiency --and my Harbeth Compact 7 ES3 monitors -- rated at 6 ohms, 86 db. At no time did the amp run out of steam, clip, or have any issues. My small listening room was the perfect setting for this little overachiever.

The rest of the partnering gear was Darwin and Stager interconnects, Transparent speaker cable, a Simaudio 380D DAC/streamer, a Sony TC-350 reel deck, and both a Ciaudio and Tisbury passive preamp. Lastly, I used an Acoustic Zen Tsunami II power cord, and set the amp up on Symposium Rollerblocks.

CLONES Audio 25p

The amp took a good two weeks to settle in. At first it was a bit reticent, and on the dry side. This was a newly built unit. After the short break in period, it exhibited a colorful tonal quality, with a very clean, liquid midrange, and rather surprisingly, deep and authoritative bass. I found the black background and quick transients addicting from the get go.

The 25p also dazzled with a wide soundstage and excellent stereo separation. Many amps at this price point tend to congeal and smear micro detail, and provide off color instrumental timbre. Not so here. Funjoe has found a way to provide nuance and musical expressiveness that quite frankly embarrass the competition.

Jack White's sublime new album, Lazaretto is a pastiche of Zeppelin style swagger, garagey R&B, classic rock, and country. White’s fat, analog production was tailor made for the 25p, where the stellar recording sounded huge. Lots of dynamics, musical left turns, and nice acoustic touches. The 25p got all the textures right, and rocked the upbeat numbers.

Speaking of Led Zeppelin, the 25p stunned in outputting the 96 Khz 2014 remaster downloads of their first three albums. There was newly uncovered ambience and detail; these albums never sounded so vivid and forceful. "Gallows Pole" and "Tangerine", from III, were hair raising. The acoustic guitars were all steel and wood, and Robert Plant’s vocals were beautifully locked in. 

Pink Floyd's 20th Anniversary Division Bell 96 Khz download sounded great too, with scale and an impressive sense of layering. The last track, "High Hopes", a beautiful piece of classic Floyd psychedelia, floated between the speakers like a dream. On this particular track, there was an inviting warmth that the 25p nailed perfectly.

Going full circle to an excellent new recording, Jane Osborne’s fantastic new album, Love And Hate, the 25p brought out the excellent balance in the mix, and extracted the emotional content at the same time. As a matter of fact, this recording may have driven home all the 25p’s best qualities: rhythmic precision, transparency, even handedness, and musical purity.

Ergonomically, the 25p is easy to live with. It runs cool and does not take up much space. It is well made enough that you will be proud to have it in your audio system. A good power cord and some cost effective isolation devices will extract the most from the amp. But I would not go crazy here, in outlay. There are a number of vendors that make good, cost-effective aftermarket power cords. But let me say, as is, out of the box, post break in, the amp is a joy.

CLONES audio 25p


Conclusion


Can a $740 amplifier be perfect? Nope. But the 25p offers pleasures that are seriously beyond anything you could imagine at this price point, and a good distance beyond. It gives up the last bit of sophistication and soundstage depth to far more costlier models. When I say "last bit", I really mean it. As a matter of fact, I am putting my wallet where my mouth is and the CLONES Audio 25p is staying put in my system because, right now, it provides everything I need from a solid-state amplifier, and then some. Exceptional product. Highly recommended.

Specifications



CLONES Audio 25p Power Amplifier: $740

US Distributor: Northto35
Long Branch, New Jersey 07740
TEL:  718-689-4411
Web: www.northto35.com
Email: ian@northto35.com

Specifications:
Output power: 25W+25W (8ohms)
Input impedance: 22k ( unbalanced only )
Signal to Noise Ratio: >95dB (min)
Dimensions: 170(w)x100(h)x170(d)mm
Weight: 4kg
* 5 year warranty


Review System 1


CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT
DAC/Server:  Simaudio Neo 308D
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MkII, Tisbury Audio Mini Passive
Amplifier: Audio Research VS 55. Bob Carver Black Magic
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, Darwin The Truth (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz CD5003
Music Server: Simaudio MiND 180, via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity A90, CLONES Audio Sheva DAC, Bryston BDA-1
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Roksan Kandy A2 B2
Tape Deck: Sony TC-350
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS

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